We recently had an Energy Specialist come into our house for an evaluation of how efficient our house is and what we can do, if anything, to improve upon it.
The man, let’s call him Tom (mostly because it is his name), spent about two hours on the evaluation. He started in the basement and worked his way up to the attic, checking for specific things and using a thermal imagery video camera to highlight “areas of opportunity” (that’s a phrase I learned back at MCI in the late 90’s; it means “problem”, but sounds nicer on a performance review).
The analysis report took a few weeks to turn around. When it was finally ready, Tom provided us with an 18 page document, replete with color photos and descriptive text of problem resolution. It started by indicating the overall efficiency of our house. We have an air leakage rate of 0.19 air changes per hour (the ideal rate is 0.35), which is like the equivalent of having a 10” x 10” opening in the side of our house, 24 hours a day (but one the cats can’t get through). He said that was pretty darn good, considering some people have air leakage rates that are equivalent to a 10’ x 10’ opening (!!!).
I was not completely surprised by these results. The existing efficiency of our house was one of its main selling points for us. Still, it is nice to hear it from a professional.
The document also showed us the primary areas of heat/cold exchange and indicated how we could make improvements to increase efficiency. Interestingly enough, he cautioned us about making the house too efficient, which would require us to figure out ways of occasionally exchanging the air in the house with fresh air.
We had some of the usual suspects, like:
Seals on exterior doors…
… outlets in exterior walls…
… attic access doors…
… and the fireplace chimney.
One interesting item was an HVAC return that was pulling hot/cold/dirty air in from the attic space where the return connected to the top plate of the wall.
Most of these leaks were easily addressed with some manual labor, a good amount of silicone caulk, and expanding spray foam insulation. We also replaced two of our bathroom vents (which were so old they were venting absolutely zero air) and insulated the duct work for the vents to prevent condensation in the attic space. We replaced wooden floor registers with metal ones that did not restrict the air flow and added little directional caps to some of the floor vents to prevent them from just blowing air up into the curtains.
One of the Secondary Priority Items Tom recommended doing (which would also make my workshop in the basement more comfortable, thus bumping it up to a Primary Priority Item) was to insulate the top half of the basement walls that were above the frost line with Dow Thermax insulation panels.
I went ahead and had him do this, along with some of the items that involved work in the attic. He was finally able to stop by this last weekend and get that insulation added. I was out of town with Finley, so I didn’t get to see the finished work until later that night. But… I guess I didn’t really think about what that might look like when it was done.
THAT was unexpected. I suppose it could be worse. Tom said I could paint it or cover it with contact paper, though that would slightly reduce its effectiveness. I don’t know; I’d almost rather leave it the way it is than paint it. So after three days of pondering, I’ve come up with a couple ideas:
- Add some UV lights to my ceiling and tan while I work.
- Purchase two dozen rolls of plaid contact paper and make this place a swanky 1970′s BBC sitcom workpad.
- Pick up a set of the Millers Falls Buck Rogers-style tools and start wearing rope lights while I work.
- Start taking up donations of scrap PSA veneer and slowly create a Studley Workshop.
What do you think? Anyone out there have any ideas? Good or bad.
(Oh, and as an aside, I am in the process of working on a write-up of the Hand Works event. I also have two book reviews to work on, some information on the Stanley #3 I’m restoring, a saw bench to make, and I need to spend some time with my new Gramercy saw vise so I can review it, as well! But I have a lot of other stuff on my plate right now, so I’ll have to fit them in when I can.)
Just a reminder that this next weekend, May 24th and 25th, is the first ever (of many, hopefully) Handworks event in Amana, IA.
At this point, if you’re just now deciding to go, you should seriously consider bringing a tent, because Amana is already a long-weekend destination and this is Memorial weekend. I’m sure most places are completely booked.
If you are headed there, and you know you won’t be spending the entire 16 hours of the event in that huge barn, then you probably want to know what else there is to do in Amana, right?
Well… I’ve no idea. Sorry.
But Jameel does.
At the bottom of that blog post is a list of links you might also want to check out.
I fully expect the antique stores to take a hit on their hand tools this weekend. What do you think?
When you’re at Handworks, if you see a red headed guy with white sideburns, wearing an Eager Beaver t-shirt and a kilt (or… just a red headed guy with white sideburns; who knows if I’ll kilt up the entire time – probably not Friday, as I’ll be coming in from a 4-hour road trip and sitting in a car for four hours in a kilt isn’t exactly fun), furiously chatting the ear off some unfortunate soul, stop me and say, “Hey!”
Seriously, I don’t bite.
Flarn Filth Flarn Filth!
Have spent several hours yesterday and today trying to fettle this sod of a plane and if cast iron burned, it would be in my fireplace right now, going up in smoke!
The blade: It seems to sharpen up OK. In fact, I have some nice razor rash free bare spots on my left arm to back this statement up. But after doing some test passes, I’ll examine the edge again and twice now have noted chips in the edge! (Just testing it on a small cutoff of poplar I had laying around, the rest of which never gave me any problems.) It isn’t exactly crumbling, but I don’t think the steel in this blade is good, for some reason.
The plane: It isn’t adjusting properly. The lateral adjuster keeps catching in the slot in the blade, which makes it hard to adjust left or right, and I can’t get it to NOT catch. There is too much slack in the tab in the frog that extends/retracts the blade. Can’t seem to get it reduced in any way and it takes about three or four full revolutions of the adjuster knob to take up the slack when you reverse the direction.
After having spent a few hours trying to figure out how to resolve these issues, I’m starting to think I won’t even bother with it. Happy to offer it up as a parts plane to anyone who wants it, or for anyone who thinks they can fix it. But I’m not going to give such a plane to someone who is new to the craft as their first smoothing plane. That just isn’t right.
So… Tonight I’ll start on Plan B, which is a Stanley #3 (type 13-ish? I’ve not yet properly looked it up, but it is around there; I’ll get the details on it shortly). I’ve had it sitting around for such a project for a while now, as well.
My love affair with Millers Falls is officially exclusive of their hand planes at this point.
First person to ask for the mf’ing MF No. 9 POS can have it, whether it is for parts or torture. For free (well… I won’t pay money to ship it, so you’d have to cover that part or I’d be happy to bring the thing to Handworks next weekend, if you want it and are attending).
Damn… That was a lot of wasted time. BAAAAHHHHH!!
A little rushed for time, so I’ll have even fewer words in this post today…
Anything with threads gets a little bit of Lithium grease prior to assembly.
This weekend, I’ll spend some time flattening and sharpening the blade and fettling the cap iron to fit properly to the blade before assembling the whole thing and trying it out.
Book Review: With Wakened Hands, Furniture by James Krenov and Students
by James Krenov
This is my fifth James Krenov book and the last of five he wrote before his passing. My version is soft-bound, but the quality is still quite high. After 13 years, the spine and binding seems to be holding up very well. The paper is a good thickness, the text is easy to read and sans serif. Most importantly, the photos are high quality and matte finished. They are well-framed and properly lit to show you all of the grain detail as well as the form. All of this makes for a quality publication.
In truth, if you have not yet picked up any of the James Krenov books to read, this might very well be the best one to start off with! It is lighter on discussion than the other books, and heavier on pictures, with the main focus being to share with you some of the works completed by him and his students at the College of the Redwoods. His goal is, “… to bring this refined work to the attention of the public.” He wants to connect with the kind of woodworker who strives for a greater degree of success, and inspire them to do just that.
The book is broken down into five sections: Workmanship, Teaching, Wood, Creativity, and Fingerprints. The first section is a discussion about the quest for quality. In covering this topic, Mr. Krenov gives us a pretty good synopsis of his life to-date and explains his current role in the school. With references to not buying freshly cut wood anymore or not working in the shop with the students as much as he used to, it is quite evident he is aware of, and has come to terms with, his mortality.
The second section begins with greater detail about the College of the Redwoods, going into the reasons why he started there, though he was propositioned by several private schools, and giving us a rundown of how the program works. If you focus on any text in this book, please make it the second part of Section Two, where he discusses how to get the most joy and satisfaction out of woodworking.
In the section on Wood, Mr. Krenov highlights the absolute importance of not only picking the right wood for your project, but in understanding that wood and its properties in order to make an intimate connection between you and the project. But what should you really take from this section?
One thing Mr. Krenov hopes all students of the College of the Redwoods leaves with is the ability to follow the creative process, from beginning to end, with their work. This is covered in the fourth section, Creativity. Learning how to take an idea from sketch to mock-up to finished piece, dealing with mistakes along the way, is an important part of your work.
“Get wood. Get all you can, and then get some more.”
Finally, in the last part of the book, he offers his insight on leaving fingerprints in your work, doing things to make it your own. This includes everything from wood selection to design, surface texture to joinery, hardware to finish.
After everything I’ve said thus far, I have to be honest with you. I’m not sure I can write a review or summary of this book that is better than the one-line inscription to the previous owner in blue sharpie on the first page:
“To my woodworker, May you continue to learn from life and be fascinated.”
Yeah, that about sums it up.
That last blog entry was a lot of writing, so I’ll try to keep this mostly images.
I spent a few hours down in the basement last night, working on the Millers Falls No. 9 Smoothing Plane…
Oh. My. Goodness. I can tell you now why I’ll never collect or pick up another Type 4 Millers Fall handplane. That orange varnish is horrible. I thought about trying to just leave it, but if you’ll notice in the pre-restoration detailed image, there is a distinct line across the tote near the base. Or maybe you won’t; it’s kind of a crappy picture. In any case, I think it is a break. It didn’t look like it went all the way through, but I needed to examine it more closely to see what needed to be done about it. That meant removing the varnish. Not knowing exactly what it was they used, I first tried lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol, to no effect. I didn’t really think it would work, but… one has to hope, right? I thought I had some green paint stripper laying around. Apparently I didn’t. That meant removing the tacky (as in tasteless, not sticky) orange varnish the hard way – scraping and sanding.
When it comes to removing orange varnish, “MF” has a whole other meaning. But I finally prevailed. Because I didn’t have much time left in the evening, and I didn’t have any weird angled jigs for gluing up totes, I decided to go with
Titebond Hide Glue, holding it in place myself until the glue set. I’ll scrape off any residual glue before I put a few light coats of shellac on the tote.
I decided to do something easy before quitting for the night, so I tackled the small bits.
After soaking for a few hours in mineral spirits, the small screws and bits cleaned up rather easily. I use a Dremel with a small wire wheel on it to clean crud out of threads and such. I noticed the metal tab that holds the frog adjusting screw was originally blued, so, being the bluing expert that I am, I decided to re-blue it! I’m not yet happy with the final polish on the lever cap, so I’m going to give that one more round of polishing.
Tonight I’ll try to tackle the frog and plane body. Based on the amount of plane shavings I found packed UNDER the frog when I disassembled it, I have a feeling I’m going to be filing a bit to get the frog to seat well. (More to come…)
At some point last year, I was at a garage sale just down the street from my house. Due to a combination of several factors – it was raining, late in the season, and pretty chilly out – there weren’t a whole lot of people there, nor had there been a lot of people there that day. Still, I was surprised when I stepped into the garage-turned-workshop to see an old Millers Falls hand plane sitting there with a $5 price tag on it.
I picked it up, popped off the lever cap and took out the blade/cap iron, and gave it a quick once-over for cracks or obvious issues. Seeing none, I gladly gave the man $5 and went home with a Millers Falls No. 9 smoothing plane (equivalent to a Stanley #4).
I didn’t really need the plane. And though I do love me some Millers Falls eggbeater drills, I haven’t ever found an attraction to their planes. My thought was to fix it up and give it away to someone who might need it. But, as is so often the case, life happens. I sat it behind my regular user hand planes and promptly forgot about it.
Then, last week Chris Schwarz had a blog post that caught my eye. Sam Cappo is working on a Perpetuating Woodworking project, putting together a set of tools and building a tool chest, all to be passed on to a needy woodworker who will breathe life back into them as they begin their woodworking journey. Chris is donating a portable workbench but, more importantly, he put out the call for tools, which is exactly the fanfare a project like this needs. Hey, this is exactly what I wanted to do with this plane, anyway! So I contacted Sam and let him know I had a smoothing plane for his project.
This morning, I found myself with a bit of free time at home while we had some house repairs being done. I went into the basement and started getting familiar with the smoothing plane before I tuned it up for use.
Using a Millers Falls Type Study, I easily determined this was a Type 4 smoothing plane, manufactured between 1955 and 1966. Key features of this type include: a high knob and a chunky tote of goncalo alves (instead of cocobolo), a thick red-orange varnish (still partially present), a black frog (all previous types had a red frog), and the famous three-point lever cap. Well, that was easy enough!
Then I wanted to see if the sole was flat enough to spend the time fettling the plane or if there were any as-yet unnoticed defects that might stay my hands before I did any more work on it. I started by laying out some 150 grit adhesive-backed sand paper onto a melamine board to begin flattening the sole. I didn’t do any prep work beforehand, just retracted the blade and sprayed down some WD40 on the sandpaper and went at it. I did not intend on fully flattening the back; I was just checking for defects and to see how much work I had ahead of me. After just a few strokes, I could tell everything looked to be in good condition. There was a small hollow behind the blade opening, and it was going to take a little bit of work to get all of the sole flattened, if I choose to take it that far, but it was in-line at the important parts – the toe, behind the blade, and the heel. I decided to work on it a bit more.
I’d thought about getting a photo or two at that point, but I’d once again forgotten my blue latex gloves, so my hands were a black-stained swarffy mess and I didn’t want to pick up cell phone or camera to get a picture of it. I’ll need to spend a little more time with it later to get the bottom completely smooth, but it shouldn’t be too much work. I’ll hit the sides, as well, just because I figure I’ll clean this thing up as best I can.
Then I went about disassembling the plane, soaking various parts in WD40 (the body and frog), low odor mineral spirits (most of the screws and bits), and Evaporust (the blade and cap iron). As you can see, I did snap a few shots off here. Unfortunately, the wife was home to take her shift (had LOTS of things done to the house) and I had to get to work, so I figured I’d let everything soak for a few hours and then pick it back up again this evening… (more to follow later)